Tag Archives: mecha

First Look Fair: Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet 1-3

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Those of us who became fans in a different era—say, the late 1990s and early 2000s—remember that different sorts of stories were the norm in anime. There was a lot more adventure and sci-fi, for one; while Evangelion introduced theretofore unknown levels of artsiness, psychological drama, and pretentiousness, anime had yet to shift over to an overweening emphasis on slice-of-life, school life, and fandom self-metajerk. In fact, it’s worth remembering that the earlier episodes of Evangelion were well-animated, straightahead episodic mecha action, with only hints of the chaos to come. What drew me in was both the compelling way these traditional elements were presented as well as the deftness with which Shinji, Misato, and Rei revealed their characters.

The same feeling is coming over me with Gen Urobuchi’s newest, and in some ways most surprising, project, Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet. I get the feeling that this might not only be a potential classic, it could be a new gateway anime for another generous of fans.

These are tall claims to make for a series that’s only broadcast three episodes. There are many ways that Urobuchi and director Kazuya Murata (Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood Movie, Code Geass; see our interview with him at Otakon 2011) could screw this up. Urobuchi’s trademark descent into despairing angst simply may not fit this story, though there are indications that this may not be the case. The storyline could get dragged out or needlessly complicated, like Code Geass (the recent Valvrave the Liberator is already showing signs of following suit), though with only 13 episodes planned, there’s not much room for that.

So far, though, not only has Gargantia avoided these traps, it’s done well simply by embracing the basics: smooth pacing, likable characters, and enough plot mystery to keep the viewer interested in what comes next.

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The excitement begins with the first half of the first episode, which features well-animated space battles deliberately reminiscent of Gunbuster: ships firing fusillades of lasers at giant, plant and insectoid aliens, with swarms of mechs and aliens locked in brutal hand-to-tentacle combat. This sends an immediate signal that Gargantia intends to stand on the shoulders of its forebears, and this impression is no lessened when the action shifts from space to the watery Earth where mecha pilot Ledo is stranded. Bright shades of Nadia, Gurren Lagann, and even the works of Studio Ghibli (particularly Castle in the Sky) are evident in the character designs, settings, and overall tone. Though the Earth is in a post-apocalypse setting, with no land to be found, it is still brightly-colored and cheerful compared to the grim “service guarantees citizenship” world Ledo comes from.

Part of the show’s success too is how quickly those worlds are established. We find out much about Ledo’s universe not just in the first fifteen minutes of the series, but also in the way he and his mecha interact with the Gargantians: he has no idea what to do with fish or meat, “thank you” has no translation in his culture, and he cannot understand why total annihilation of the enemy is a problem. Remarkably, the show decently balances the perspective of the more casual, civilian-like attitude of Gargantia and the militaristic perspective of Ledo. While we sympathize with the Gargantia’s more “humane” approach, one easily understands the seeming rationality of Ledo’s point of view, and it is not one devoid of sense or restraint either: he frequently has to tell his mecha computer to stand down. He can be dialogued with and convinced. He is, after all, still human.

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And that’s the thing: there’s a human warmth to the storytelling in Gargantia which comes out in the likability of the characters and in the smaller moments. They show the whole gamut of emotions, from fear to curiosity to joy to gratitude and surprise. The nearly uniform despair of the majority of Madoka, as well the flatness of Psycho-Pass, are nowhere to be found here. It does this without surrealism, name dropping in the dialogue, or other superficial trickery. There are occasional bows to fan-servicey convention, particularly with the Pirate Queen Lukkage and her sidekicks, but it’s hardly a big deal compared to the show’s other virtues.

Gargantia is not only proof that Urobuchi can tell a straightforward story well, but that there is still life in this sort of storytelling. That so much of online fandom is excited by this show suggests that it’s relatively rare and deeply appreciated when it appears. Quality tends to be—see Sturgeon’s Law—but this, along with the ongoing Yamato 2199, signals hope in sci-fi adventure stories as a viable, relatively mainstream avenue for anime to reach audiences.

While Evangelion’s unique weirdness and intensity was what made me stay a fan, it had to hook me first. Here’s hoping Gargantia will offer similar pleasures along the way.

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Miss Gurren Lagaan On Hulu!

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Earlier this weekend, while doing my rare rounds of looking for more tv goodness in the ever fruitful lands of Huluville, I ran into a title that equates clearly to the recent acquisition of another geek classic, Edgar Wright’s SPACED. The late 90s-early 2000s TV series featuring none other than Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and various members of the cast of future nerdcore classic Shaun Of The Dead movie. As many feel, the sharing of such a seminal tv series has been something of a rarified godsend for those looking for a little added edge to their streamy viewing. And just as SPACED fulfills great gobs of love for geeks of the comic-book & movie persuasions, the discovery of GAINAX’s penultimate 2000s tribute to Robot Anime is akin to an action lover’s gold rush. No I’m not speaking of THAT show, I’m speaking of course of Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagaan.

And why is this reason for celebration? Why is it that the discovery of this series on one of the more mainstream viewing sites such a big deal? I’ve decided to compile some simple, concise reasons as to why missing out on this show could possibly be like missing out on your own wedding or birthday. It’s simply that remarkable. But don’t take the last two paragraphs’ word for it. Read on. Oh yeah. Read on!

Continue reading 5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Miss Gurren Lagaan On Hulu!

The Zen of Eureka Seven

Freedom writ large.

Take one gangly kid, one cooldere, and a bunch of heroic rebels who just want to live free. Put them in a dystopian future where an almost-magical element, trapar, generates lift forces and enables them to defy gravity. Mix in mecha, a threat to the world, and an uneasy peace. Serves seven: Eureka Seven.

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Greetings and Strangulations – Asura Cryin 01 Decompressed

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The first episode of Asura Cryin’ is incredibly dense in terms of material. It’s got childhood trauma, self-sacrifice, silly friend antics, social commentary, ghost haunting, high school romantic comedy, family drama, magical girls, split personalities, underground societies, potential harem, and mecha all rolled into one. Did I miss anything?

The story begins with a scene of ruin. The protagonist, Tomo, suffered serious injuries in an accident, and a mysterious magical girlfriend from the Goddess Agency – no, wait, that’s not quite it. A mysterious girl reassured him that he would live, as he lay on a hospital bed.  Flash forward to the present.  It’s clear that he’s now trying to live a normal life, just as it’s clear that the accident is of great importance and that something mysterious happened. This entire setup happens in under a minute. Asura Cryin’ is efficient.

Continue reading Greetings and Strangulations – Asura Cryin 01 Decompressed

Review–Rebuild of Evangelion 01: You Are Not Alone (Or Are You, Mr. Anno?)

In which Michael fails to talk objectively and fairly about this refreshed version of the anime which started his fandom, and which gave him his first anime crush hero: Hideaki Anno, who is still the writer and director.
Continue reading Review–Rebuild of Evangelion 01: You Are Not Alone (Or Are You, Mr. Anno?)

Gundam 00 ep2 – I got hooked but pissed at the same time because…

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AH!!!! It’s like Char without a mask and a Zaku pulled out a beam saber but the main Gundam uses a fucking heat blade??? What the hell?

Speaking of Zakus, the modern Gundam series really lacks something – a group of opponent mechas, which are not gundam-based, that one can root for and be impressed with.

For the UC gundam series (look it up, young’uns, if don’t know), what often helped the sale of models weren’t the gundams, it was the Zakus, the Doms, the Rick Diases, and other badass non-gundam mecha. I mean, there were good gundams but one had a choice. That’s why there are so many Zeon-followers in Gundam fandom. Because the guys with Zeon had distinctive and sometimes quirky personalities, and their mecha are often customized. For these who really know UC Gundam, who could forget the Black Tri-stars? The Golf? The RED ZAKU, gelgoog, and the Zeong? Who the fuck needs legs on a mobile suit when Char is piloting it?

Sounds silly? Well, kid, that’s a big part of the charm and flair of the UC Gundam. Gung ho men dreaming of bettering the world, even if they have to gas a whole colony to do it, but it’s not like the so-called good guys are all that honorable. In fact, watching the Zeon squad from 0083, they showed more courage than these Feddies. Even Cima Garahau was a character infinitely better than someone like that bitch Releena Peacecraft.

Continue reading Gundam 00 ep2 – I got hooked but pissed at the same time because…

Gundam 00 ep1 – unlike most of you, I was impressed.

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Check it out, the characters actually acknowledge their hypocrisy! It’s like people in Gundam Wing actually wake up and say, “hey look, we’re starting to war to end a war??? As in, we’re fighting to stop fighting? What type of fucking idiom is that?”

That, my friends, was enough to impress me.

Continue reading Gundam 00 ep1 – unlike most of you, I was impressed.